Got Japanese Beetles? You Need Catbirds!

Submitted by: Connie Smith

Do you have grasshoppers, beetles, including Japanese beetles, caterpillars, ants, cicadas or termites? Entice catbirds to your yard, and you will have natural insect controllers to take out those destructive, annoying and plant-damaging bugs. And, if one day you hear a strange mew coming from your shrubs or hedges, you will have hit the jackpot!

The best way to lure shy catbirds to your yard is to plant shrubs like lilac, weigela, honeysuckle vine and deutzia, etc. A grape arbor, blackberry and red raspberry bushes, elderberry, blueberry and mulberry are also special favorites of the catbird. Their preferred nesting spot is in dense shrubs, so plan where and what kinds you would like to plant in your yard. There are so many beautiful shrub and vine choices of all colors and fragrances. You are limited only by your own imagination.

My Mom had a snowball bush, several mock oranges, lilacs, a wild rose hedge, forsythia and honeysuckle bushes. We had catbirds nesting in those fragrant and beautiful plantings every year when I was a kid. I still remember hearing that mysterious mewing sound emanating from those bushes, and wondering where that cat was–only to discover, to my delight, that a bird was copying a cat! That s the first time I realized that birds do mimic other animals.


You might also entice these dark gray birds, with their jaunty little black caps, by planting a lush flower bed or vegetable garden. My grandfather had an orchard next door to our house. There were lots of cherry, apricot, peach, plum and pear trees. On the edge of the property blackcaps and wild red raspberry brambles grew prolifically. Grandpa was also an avid vegetable gardener. We always had fresh veggies in the summertime. My grandmother canned or froze the extra fruits and vegetables, which we relished all winter long. I know the catbirds were kept busy combing the orchard, berry brambles and gardens all day long for bugs.

Catbirds don t usually come to backyard feeders unless no other food source is available. And then they will gladly dine on peanut butter or suet and raisins. They do not usually stick around all winter. They prefer to head for the warmth of the southern U.S. and Mexico. A few catbirds might be persuaded to winter over if they find a good and constant source of berries.

These 8 to 9 long birds with a rusty patch under their tails, mimic other birds as well as cats, and they love to sing. Their birdsong repertoire is quite extensive and often interestingly improvised. Taking baths is a favorite activity. They aren t fussy – a stream, fountain, backyard birdbath or puddle will do.

Nests will be made of an eclectic collection of materials such as weeds, grasses, twigs and leaves. The inner cup for the 4 to 5 blue-green eggs will be padded with pine needles, hair-like roots and animal hair. The male and female look just alike, and they both share in feeding their young.

Invite these wonderful insect and fruit loving birds to your yard, and enjoy their chorus of assorted birdsongs and mimickery. Make your yard and gardens irresistible to them, and you will have a natural and very efficient insect control partner – no dangerous chemicals required!

About the Author: Connie Smith is the author with over 30 years of backyard wild bird experience. For more information about wild birds and for a great selection of unique birdhouses and bird feeders made from reclaimed antique barnwood, visit her website at


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